Monday, August 24, 2009

Inglourious Basterds rakes in $38 million while other openers crash and burn. The delayed weekend box office in review (08/23/09)

My daughter turned two just the other day. She said "Thanks for the book dad, c'mon let's play." "Can you teach me to read?" I said "Not today, I've got a box office weekend in review column to write." She said "That's ok." She walked away but her smile never dimmed. It said "I'm gonna be like him, yeah, You know I'm gonna be like him".

Oh wait... that's not what happened. Anyway, here is the delayed weekend box office review for the weekend of 08/21-08/23. For the record, as summer ends and segues into fall, I'll be doing these less frequently (expect a massive, multi-part summer movie wrap up sometime next week). There just isn't as much news with most of the weekends in September and October. But I'll discuss anything worth discussing and I'll try to get back onboard for the holiday season.

As everyone and their sister already knows, Inglourious Basterds scored a genuinely impressive $38 million over its debut weekend. While everyone else has been blabbing on the effect this will have on the struggling Weinstein Company, I frankly couldn't care less. First of all, Harvey Weinstein and Bob Weinstein are both very rich men, so they will be fine regardless. Second of all, had Weinstein Company collapsed, they likely would have ended up as a dependent for a major studio (Universal or Disney?) just like they were in the old days. The focus on prestige projects like Inglourious Basterds or Nine is somewhat disingenuous. At the end of the day, Miramax prospered thanks to cheap genre pictures like Halloween: H20 or Scary Movie. The Oscar race was purely a matter of personal pride and ego. Point being, if I'm right and they've been underselling Halloween II to bolster the continuing positive coverage of Inglourious Basterds, then they're shooting themselves in the long-term foot. But of course, whose brilliant idea was it to open those two back-to-back anyway?

But I digress. Inglourious Basterds now stands a shot at being profitable, despite the $60 million budget and inflated 2.5 hour running time. This is by far Quentin Tarantino's biggest opening weekend (Kill Bill volume 2 opened with $25 million back in April, 2004), and it has a shot at surpassing Pulp Fiction's $108 million final domestic gross and $212 million international gross to become his highest grossing picture. This is also a big win for Brad Pitt, as this is his fifth-biggest opening weekend. Amusingly enough, this is also Mike Myers's fourth-biggest live-action opening weekend, behind only the last two Austin Powers sequels and The Cat in the Hat. The most impressive thing about the weekend performance is that the film didn't absolutely collapse after Friday. Despite being very long, very talky, and very subtitled, the film ended up with a decent 2.64x multiplier. It opened with $14.38 million, dropped a reasonable 9% on Saturday ($13 million), and then just 19% on Sunday ($10.5 million). The film that audiences saw over the weekend wasn't anything like the one that was advertised, but said audiences didn't seem to mind in the least (it helps that the oddly crowd-pleasing finale contains most of the action bits from the trailers). Anyway, expect a hearty (around 50%) but not crippling plunge next weekend, and then a healthy run through fall as it becomes the grown-up movie of choice.

District 9 lost a decent-for-its-genre 49% in weekend two for an $18.2 million second-weekend and a $72.8 million ten-day total. The drop was as expected (good word of mouth helped cushion the blow of losing the teens to Tarantino and his bastards) and the film will likely make it to $100 million. GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra became the alibi of choice over the weekend, as it dropped just 45% in weekend three. Chalk this up to two things - A) the movie is playing well with kids and families and B) kids are buying tickets to GI Joe and sneaking into the R-rated fare. So expect an even smaller drop next weekend as the there will be four major teen-targeted R-rated films in the marketplace. The third-weekend take was $12.2 million and the new total is just over $120 million. So $150 million is now a strong possibility. With booming overseas numbers as well, a sequel has already been greenlit. Yo Joe!

The Time Traveler's Wife took a hard (for its genre) fall of 47% in its second weekend, but the $39 million drama has already earned $38 million in ten-days. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you budget accordingly, grown-up dramas can be quite profitable. In a completely unrelated story, the $40-million-costing Julie & Julia has just crossed $60 million, with a third-weekend drop of just 27%. With holds like this, the film will make it to $85 million, and an inevitable Oscar nomination for Meryl Streep will push it over the $100 million mark. The next opener of the weekend, Robert Rodriguez's Shorts, tanked with just $6.4 million. While best-buddy Quentin Tarantino enjoyed the biggest success of his career, Rodriguez suffered the indignity of the studio dump. Sure Warner Bros opened this in 3,105 screens, but the advertising was minimal and the reviews were mediocre at best. Better luck with Machete.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is now within $1.5 million of surpassing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as the highest-grossing sequel of the series. At $290 million, it will likely cross the $300 million mark and then stop dead. Amazingly enough, this will be the third-consecutive Harry Potter sequel to outgross the previous installment. While various variables (inflation, IMAX, 3D, etc) can be factored in, one can only conclude that the eight-year old (!) series is actually getting more popular as it winds toward its final lap. Fox dumped Post-Grad ($2.6 million), and considering the reviews, Alexis Bledel ought to be thanking them. Finally, Ponyo dropped a decent 32% in its second weekend. With $8 million in the US bank and a $192 million global take, I'm guessing the whole is a $16 million US total, which will push the international gross past the $200 million mark.

That's all this weekend (does anyone really care that G-Force is at $107 million and The Ugly Truth is at $82 million?), the real fun is next weekend, when the year's stupidest battle royale occurs. Behold as The Final Destination 3D and Halloween II cannibalize each other and cost each of them a respective $10 million on their opening weekends. Surely someone at Warner or Weinstein Company could have flinched for both of their sakes?

For a review of Inglourious Basterds and more, go to Mendelson's Memos.

Scott Mendelson

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